Tag Archives: politics

Victory for the Conservatives in Rochester

The Conservatives scored a victory over the Conservatives last night at the closely-fought Rochester and Strood by-election.

Conservative candidate Mark Reckless, whose defection from the Conservatives triggered the by-election, said: “I am delighted to have been re-elected as the Conservative member of Parliament and promise to continue to represent this area’s Conservative interests, such as being horrible to poor and disabled people and immigrants, and privatising the NHS.”

Conservative party leader Nigel Farage said, “Mark Reckless’s win for the Conservatives in Rochester shows that the Conservatives now have serious support in the United Kingdom, and voters can clearly see that as a public-school educated ex-hedge-fund manager, I represent a true alternative to the Conservative government, which is woefully out of touch with the man on the street.”

The man on the street said, “I was proud to have voted for the Conservative Mark Reckless because the Conservative Mark Reckless had been my MP for quite a while, and it’s time to give someone else a chance. We need real change.”

Conservative party leader and Prime Minister David Cameron commented, “Our loss to the Conservative candidate Mark Reckless, who until very recently don’t forget was a Conservative, is a sign of the total stupidity of the voting public.”

Conservative party leader Ed Miliband, whose candidate Naushabah Khan came third in the poll, said: “We the Conservatives are not deterred by the result. Don’t forget that this constituency was a Conservative stronghold until we lost it to the Conservatives just a few years ago. We will continue to campaign for those hit hardest by Conservative policies, such as the Bedroom Tax, which don’t forget we introduced in the first place, and will repeal at the earliest opportunity because it isn’t very popular with our core voters, who are the affluent middle-classes in Islington. Or possibly it’s those quaint people with white vans and England flags draped outside their windows… I honestly can’t remember. I need to see today’s Sun before I can tell you.”

Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst, who came in second behind Reckless, said: “Vote BNP.”

Sick of this? Vote Green.

Democracy, DRIP and digital dunces

Yesterday I replied to a tweet by the excellent campaigning organisation 38 Degrees asking for experiences of “so-called digital democracy”. In the past few days I’ve been emailing my MP to ask that he not support the outrageous, and outrageously rushed-through, DRIP bill (for a useful summary of what this is and “how it will help MPs ruin our lives”, see today’s superb article by Charlie Brooker). I’ve still received no reply from my MP (and have only ever had standard letter replies to similar approaches in the past) and said as much to 38 Degrees. Ironically MPs must have been paying attention to that because today I got a reply to that tweet from the Twitter account for the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy, “engaging” with me, or at least asking me to take their survey on what I really feel about the subject. Later I attempted to watch today’s live stream of the commission hearing, although despite their website saying the link to this would be posted on their website the day before the hearing, it wasn’t even posted on there today. An inauspicious start, you might say. Anyway, copied below are my answers to their survey questions.

Question: Members of Parliament are elected to represent local people’s interests in the House of Commons. How can the internet and social media help with this?
TC: I think this is a red herring. Politicians like to think they can use the latest technology to connect with the people, but all they want to do is use it for propaganda and to curtail our privacy. There are very few politicians who use either the internet or social media to any effect. Caroline Lucas and the Green Party do it very well. The lunatic fringe of UKIP and the Tories just use it to spread hate and fear. Labour constantly use it to make announcements but don’t care what even their own voters have to say by way of comment. Politicians don’t have to use these channels to be effective, for instance Glenda Jackson is a true conviction politician I admire but I never hear about her Twitter account, whereas I do see her Commons performances circulated on social media by others. It’s the content that’s important, not the medium.

Does social media enhance the local link for MPs, or undermine it by involving them in more national and international discussions?
It probably gives them more to do, and a greater opportunity to connect with the people they represent, which could be exploited to better effect. “National and international discussions” is irrelevant, unless the MP in question is a cabinet minister or foreign secretary etc. My local MP does tweet about things he’s doing in the area although it often comes across more as a self-justification/party political broadcast exercise.

Use of interactive technology is increasing. Is this likely to increase pressure for more direct democracy, such as crowd-sourcing, referendums and citizens’ initiatives?
“Direct democracy” is a joke. It’s gesture politics. Barely any politicians are interested in democracy and certainly don’t want to use the internet or social media to give people *more* power.

What will democracy look like in 15 – 20 years?
I hold out very little hope for the future of “democracy”. Politicians are only interested in serving themselves and their peers. They will continue to curtail people’s freedoms as long as people let this happen.

Most people still get most of their news from television, although this seems to be changing in favour of online information. Traditional news organisations are also changing. What impact will this have on elections and democracy in general?
Traditional news organisations are changing for the worse. The BBC is no longer independent and doesn’t represent what people need to see or hear. The BBC censors news that isn’t in the interests of the government and gives disproportionate amounts of airtime to unelected extremists. None of this bodes well for “democracy”.

How can online provision of information about elections be improved, including details of where to vote, how to vote and the results?
Central website independently managed (not political) with details of all polling stations (with maps and transport links), details of all candidates and their policies, and results. [Note: I nearly offered my services in building such a site, but thought better of it.]

Can we expect continuous election campaigning through digital channels – what would citizens feel about that and would it undermine or strengthen representative democracy?
This happens already through the existing channels and I pay little attention to it. The extremists just use it for inflammatory speech, which gets all the attention anyway. Campaigning is mostly depressing, meaningless nonsense and has little to do with really connecting with the public. You don’t engage with me by standing on a soap box in an M&S jumper, or “digital equivalent”, you do it by not making the police kettle me when I exercise my democratic right to protest against your policies.

Do you have any other comments?
I’d like to think there is a point in this exercise but I really have no confidence in most MPs or in the “democratic process”. I doubt that anyone reading this [at the Commission] will care about that. It seems to be the sole aim of the political system to make voters feel impotent to change anything or find a political party that actually represents their interests. The internet, social media and digital privacy/civil liberties are being largely abused by politicians, as they do with everything else. These comments come not from some radical 15-year-old but from a white, middle-class, middle-aged, reasonably well-educated, self-employed ethnically British voter. I hope you’re all feeling suitably ashamed of what you’ve done to the democratic process.

Having mixed feelings over the Goodwin pension debacle

Gordon Brown is getting all uptight at ex-RBS chief Sir Fred Goodwin’s decision to keep his massive pension, despite the bank’s record losses of umpteen billion.

While Fred is undoubtedly an odious whelk, I can’t help but think that Gordon has got things out of proportion. Sure a £16m pension pot is an outrageous amount, but it’s a drop in the ocean in terms of the banking bailouts and the general economic crisis.

Gordon’s explosion is all a smokescreen. The PM’s ire would be far better turned on himself for permitting characters like Goodwin to prosper with such catastrophic results for the past decade.

Posted via email from Thoughtcat’s Posterous

Gordon ‘gets tough’ with the bankers

The BBC reports Gordon Brown as saying that the culture of rewarding bankers for failure and short term gain is being “swept away”, and that Labour would “aggressively” pursue action to ensure that future rewards for bankers were based on “long-term success” and failure was penalised.

The words horse, bolt, shutting, and door all come to mind. I’m sure the bankers are quaking in their boots.

Backdate the “aggressiveness”, Gordon, if you want to truly atone for your government’s pathetic lack of bank regulation in the past decade.

Posted via email from thoughtcat’s posterous

George Bush – he’s not dead yet, you know

The Guardian Weekend magazine has a questionnaire thing called Q&A; it puts to a different celebrity each week. The questions – some serious, some less so – are always the same, with the exception of the downright cheeky but irresistible ‘How often do you have sex?’, which only sometimes gets answered. (It’s not actually clear whether the interviewees get the choice of answering the question – although of course they can’t exactly be forced to – or the mag only asks it in the first place at its discretion.) Anyway, one of the other questions is ‘Which living person do you most despise?’ Unsurprisingly, most people answer ‘George Bush’, to the point where one reader recently wrote saying the question should be changed to ‘Which living person apart from George Bush do you most despise?’ Last week however, Streets frontman Mike Skinner’s reply was ‘Boris, idiot mayor of London’. Given that Boris Johnson has never, to my knowledge, started a war on a false premise which has seen thousands killed, I thought this a tad harsh, but then that’s the problem – Bush has set the bar so high that to name anyone else (apart perhaps from Tony Blair or the truly disgusting Robert Mugabe, who gets off lightly) just seems ridiculous. This week a reader comments on Skinner’s choice, saying that since Bush’s ‘demise’ last month the respondents to Q&A; are clearly finding they’re having to use their imaginations a bit more. But this reader (not to mention the Weekend letters editor) seems a tad confused, since last I heard, being voted out of office does not rule you out of being a living person, so I feel we can expect George to turn up in Q&A; for some time to come. Then again, Bush never really counted as a fully-alive human being for the whole of his presidency, so maybe not… although of course that would disqualify him from being named by all those Q&A; respondents over the past eight years, so we can’t have that. Anyway, I’ve written to the Guardian Weekend magazine to make my feelings clear.

Posted via email from thoughtcat’s posterous

David Cameron on ‘responsible capitalism’

Tory leader David Cameron says the bankers who have got us into the present financial mess “now need to use [their] talents to help the poorest build assets”. I’m not sure whether to be terrified at the prospect of “the poor” being turned, Cybermen-like, into a new army of reckless bankers, or to grin at the thought of disgraced financial “stars” being forced into a new kind of community service…

Posted via email from thoughtcat’s posterous

Riddley would be proud

“John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, has spent £645 updating the sign on the front of his office,” reports today’s Times. “To ensure that visitors don’t get confused, the old sign, ‘Office of the Deputy Prime Mininster’, has been replaced by one saying ‘Deputy Prime Minister’s Office’.” While I sympathise with the Times’s outrage at this waste of money (and that’s just Prescott’s lunch), its spelling of “minister” doesn’t help its case – why, it’s almost verging on the reasonable to correct a typo in a sign on the door of an MP, no matter how dubious his claim to office may be. More layers of irony suggest themselves, indeed, as it becomes clear that this typo couldn’t have been associated with a more appropriate “mincer” of the language, as my old friend Riddley Walker – whose literacy skills incidentally trounce Prescott’s – would no doubt have described him.


I was surprised to see the death reported of Lord Profumo – I thought he’d died years ago. The reports all say the same thing, that whatever he’d achieved as an MP would be overshadowed by the “infamous sex scandal”. This is doubly sad, since not only did he seem on balance a decent bloke but the scandal purported not to be about the sex but about the fact that he’d lied to Parliament about the affair with Christine Keeler. This is bullshit, of course – politicians lie all the time and get away with it. What isn’t tolerated in the UK is politicians having sex. Frankly if more ministers for war (of which there are many, even if the post has now gone) spent their time screwing and less time making war the world would be a far nicer place.

Three cheers for Walter Wolfgang

I am very proud to say that Walter Wolfgang, the 82-year-old anti-war activist who was manhandled out of the Labour Party conference this week for shouting the word “nonsense” during a Jack Straw speech about Iraq, lives in my neighbourhood. I sometimes see him shopping in my local Waitrose (a home from home, but that’s another story). He actually used to be a much closer neighbour of mine when I lived in a different part of the town years ago but at that time I didn’t know anything about him. Now the whole world knows about Mr Wolfgang (or “Walter” as Tony Blair called him rather patronisingly in his “apology” for the delegate’s treatment).

The first time I got to know about WW was during the war in Kosovo when I attended a local political meeting. (That invasion seemed pretty dire at the time, although compared to Iraq it now seems a model of legitimacy.) It was a slightly weird occasion – in fact so much so that this was not only the first but the last political meeting I’ve ever been to – where the war wasn’t really discussed but railed against by a bunch of lefty oddballs whose views ranged from moderately critical to downright bonkers. As chair of the “debate”, WW was one of the few calm voices in the room. I have to admit that when I first saw the footage of WW being bundled out of the conference on Wednesday’s Channel 4 News, my gut reaction was that the poor old sod had finally lost it, but I was delighted to see that this was a million miles from the truth.

Yesterday’s Independent lost no time in citing Mr Wolfgang’s treatment as the perfect example of everything that is sick at the heart of the government. As if that front page splash with a photo of WW being led away by police wasn’t enough, today’s front page features a whole article by the man himself about the incident and why he was protesting. It’s excellent: “My case is not important” is the self-effacing opening sentence, while later he describes Blair as “the worst leader the Labour Party has ever had” and observes: “Blair’s instincts are basically those of a Tory. He picked up this cause from the Americans without even analysing it. I suspect that he is too theatrical even to realise that he is lying.” That’s a great line and I think the best and most succinct explanation I’ve yet heard for why Blair has acted (pun intended) the way he has.

So, good on you, Mr Wolfgang. If I ran a restaurant I’d invite you in for a meal on the house but as it is I’ll probably have to make do with shaking your hand the next time I see you in Waitrose.

The passing of decent geezers

I don’t know about you, but I have a thing for checking the obituary pages of news websites on a daily basis, generally out of curiosity but also with a note of anxiety – it seems to be looking for trouble. While I will of course want to know immediately if someone important (or important to me) has died, I dread actually reading the words. As it happens, today I didn’t have to go to the obituaries for the sad news of two deaths, as they were headline news. The first is Robin Cook, one of the few modern Labour MPs (and MPs full stop) who could rightly claim to be a man of principle and integrity. I mean, Tony Blair uses every possible opportunity to persuade everyone that he has those qualities in abundance, but there’s a vast difference between doing that and actually having them. Blair, being a lawyer by profession, could defend the indefensible, including (seemingly endlessly) his own right to continue as prime minister, but Cook by contrast was the highly respected cabinet politician who took the rare step of actually resigning from the government over its insane determination to take the UK to war in Iraq. The Guardian/Observer website today publishes an extract from his amazing resignation speech, one of the very, very few truly memorable and moving Commons moments in recent memory.

The second sad “celebrity” death today was that of Ibrahim Ferrer, the great Buena Vista Social Club singer. Admittedly he was 78, but I still mourn the decline (with some Thunderbird wine) of that beautiful voice.